Gilday agreed with that assessment, but noted that sometimes perception is just as important as reality, and having such a high tax rate could serve as a bad first impression to residents interested in moving to town.
“People tend to read headlines and not always the full story,” Gilday said.
Lavoie also pointed out that many communities use free cash to offset tax increases, including Newburyport and Salem, the latter which he said is planning on using as much as $1 million in free cash to lower their rate.
“It’s a legitimate financial tool in the municipal toolbox, but it’s a tool that the mayor and his administration don’t believe is a good practice to use,” Lavoie said. “But that’s their opinion and after Monday night, they’ll see that the council doesn’t agree.”
But regardless of what the council decides, the decision of whether to use free cash to offset the tax increase rests with Kezer alone.
“He has the final say on it; we don’t have any say,” Gilday said. “We can make our recommendations through a resolution, but the ball is basically in his court, and we have no say on that.”
Even if Kezer were to reverse course, however, the councilors said they understand that it’s too late in the year to implement the changes they want.
“At this juncture, it’s no longer a viable alternative simply because of the calendar,” Lavoie said. “The council would have to finish its work on such a measure and get it in to the state by Dec. 20 in order for the state to have enough time to certify the rate.”
After the special meeting, the council will gather for their regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday at 7 p.m. in the City Hall auditorium. That meeting will include the annual tax classification hearing, where the councilors are expected to vote to maintain a single-tax rate for the city.